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.jo                                                                                                            B. POLEVOI
"Well, bear it, bear it—it's your affair. We'll see what
this does." And he prescribed some new treatment.
The door closed behind him, his footsteps died down in
the corridor, but Meresyev lay in his bed with eyes closed.
"My feet, my feet, my feet___" Was he to be without
feet, to be a cripple on wooden stumps like old Arkasha,
the ferryman in his native Kamyshin? To unfasten and
leave his feet on the river-bank when he went bathing
and crawl into the water like a monkey, as that old man
did?
These bitter reflections were aggravated by still another
circumstance. On the very first day he arrived at the
hospital he read the letters he had received from Kamy-
shin. The small, triangle-folded letters from his mother
were, as always, brief, half consisting of greetings from
relatives and assurances that they were all well, thank
God, and that he, Alyosha, need not worry about her, and
half of pleadings that he should take care of himself, not
to catch cold, not to get his feet wet, not to rush into
danger and to beware of the German's cunning, about
which she had heard enough from her neighbours. The
contents of all these letters were the same, except that in
one she informed him that she had asked a neighbour to
pray for him in church, not that she was religious her-
self, but in case there was somebody up above after all;
in another she wrote that she was worried about his elder
brothers who were fighting somewhere in the South and
had not written for a long time; and in the last one she
wrote that she had dreamed that during the spring flood
on the Volga all her sons had returned to her; that they
had come back from a successful fishing expedition
together with their father—who was dead—and that she
had baked for them their favourite pie—vyaziga pie*—
and that the neighbours had interpreted the dream as
meaning that one of her sons would certainly come home
from the front. She therefore begged Alexei to ask his
superior whether he would not let him go home, at least
for a day.
The blue envelopes, addressed in a large, round, school-
girl's hand, contained letters from a girl who had been a
* Pie stuffed with the spinal cord of a sturgeon.—Tr.